Well, this was another disappointing effort at home. At least there were some interesting tidbits and sidelines to spice things up.
Knicks 99, Blazers 81
--This game was just chock full of atrocious defense. Watching it from a defensive point of view was like biting into a Milky Way and finding it full of Brussels Sprouts. Ugh. We got outrun early. We got outmuscled by Eddy Curry in the middle. (Why we didn't double him hard from the outset of the contest is a little beyond me.) Then we got outshot and outrebounded to close the game. (Because when we finally did start doubling Curry hard we didn't rotate and thus left somebody wide open every play.) And we were letting them make any pass they wanted all night long. It's not like New York was much better either. You know those 150-149 contests where they ask whether it's good offense or bad defense? We got the answer tonight...it's good offense. There was no defense to speak of tonight and neither team broke 100.
--The only thing more brutal than the defensive effort was how badly we got outrebounded. We knew New York was stronger in this area coming in but there's no excuse for getting shellacked by 20 in the rebounding column. You will never, ever win a game like that. And that's exactly why, on a night when nobody was guarding anybody, we still got pasted instead of keeping it close.
--A huge part of the reason both the defense and rebounding were so poor was that nobody, and I mean nobody, moved their feet for most of the game. It was a convincing imitation of freeze tag out there.
--That no foot movement thing extended to the offense most of the night as well. It was one person dribbling and four standing. Seldom did you see a pass made that put anybody in better scoring position. And I laughed out loud as I observed that many of the few sets in which we did move without the ball were sets where we passed into Jamaal before moving. What good is that? He ain't passing.
--We have the worst, ugliest fast break in the league, hands down. If there's a mistake to be made on the break, we're all over it.
--The most disappointing thing about all of this, besides the fact that it happened after a practice where we were supposed to rediscover our intensity, was that Nate went with a really tight rotation for most of the game until it became evident in the fourth quarter that we were done. This wasn't our bench unit failing to keep a lead, these were our main guys getting pounded.
--Jarrett Jack had an interesting game. He started out really aggressive, which was great. Then he missed a couple shots and switched to passive mode again. Then he upped his energy in the second half, but it was too late. He ended up with seven assists and only one turnover, and he needs to realize that if he keeps that up it won't matter as much how he shoots. The other thing he needs to realize is that if you're not aggressive you simply cannot play out there. Somebody else has to get your minutes if you're going to disappear.
--Brandon Roy continued to struggle despite notching 14 points (many from his 6-6 at the free-throw line). He's our best penetration guy and I like it when he gets a step on his man, but many times he's not and then things get mucked up. I suppose the best way to summarize his game was that he did get those 14, but I didn't notice. There just wasn't a big impact there.
--All three of our centers (that's right, three...Lamarcus played) got used up by Eddy Curry something fierce. Fans will notice Lamarcus' 3-5 shooting and the couple of dunks he got but they also need to notice how badly out of position he was on the defensive end on a few sets. That's my guess as to why he's not playing more. Then again Przy and Mags were in position and they still got toasted. At least Jamaal shot 5-5 to get back at Curry a little. But it's not like that was good basketball...just "me score, you score".
--Sergio came in late in the game and at least provided some energy. He didn't affect the game much but he looked like he wanted to be out there playing, unlike most of the team tonight.
--Martell was on his way to the usual passive game but he woke up a little in garbage time. He only shot 2-10 but at least he took 10 shots, and a few of them were drives. He also showed some hustle. Now if he would only do that before the game has been decided...
--The most interesting drama of the night surrounded Zach. He was having another up and down game. On the one hand he was the only guy out there rebounding and he did shoot 7-10. On the other hand he was again bailing out of his post position without a fight, he was disrupting offensive sets, and he committed some very ugly looking turnovers. Long story short, Nate sat him. And when he got sat, he SAT. The camera showed him several times. He was slumped in the last seat of the bench, farthest away from the coach, looking like he was listening to Ben Stein deliver a six-hour lecture on the history of the Hungarian sewer system. He didn't get up for time outs or acknowledge anyone in any way. And his eyes were dead...just flat and expressionless. Ladies and gentlemen, Z-Bo has checked out. Obviously we've seen this from him before. In fact we saw it for extended stretches last season. The only difference tonight was that Darius wasn't sitting next to him doing the exact same thing. Either it means he thinks he isn't being used right, he thinks the team isn't playing right, he's mad about being benched, he had an argument with Nate in practice, or something else is going on that upset his apple cart. Eventually something always happens to clear the air and he gets back to semi-normal, but that can take a day or several weeks. Let's hope it's the former. This is the first time this season we've seen anything like this from him, but it's worth noting that Bad Zach has arrived.
--On a related note, it'll be interesting to see how the team addresses this if it become public in the mainstream media (which it seems likely to do, as it was broadcast all over New York). In the past there have been two options. A fine or disciplinary action has been the rare one. More commonly it's credited to injury. It will be interesting to see if Zach's "knee hurt" again last night...
--I saw something I've never seen tonight. Sergio Rodriguez lofted an alley-oop pass to Martell Webster over the hands of three Knicks. Martell cradled the ball in his hand while in midair, hammered downward and...SPLUT. The ball was jammed alright...jammed in the crook between the rim and the backboard. And there it stuck. Jump ball. I've seen the ball get stuck plenty, but never on an alley-oop.
--Speaking of things I've never seen, who did Knicks Commentator Walt "Clyde" Frazier lose a bet to that he had to wear that god-awful sportcoat? It looked like someone killed their grandmother's Scottish curtains and then made them into a suit. I sincerely hope his pants didn't match. Not even Jack Ramsay would have done that.
--Another thing Walt mentioned was that he never trusts people with two first names, like Brandon Roy. I hate to tell you Clyde, but you came to the wrong town. We could field almost an entire "all first name team": Jarrett Jack, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, Zach Randolph, and until yesterday Stephen Graham. Now if only we could get hold of Tim Duncan...
--(sigh) No amount of oddness can shine up the dullness of our current efforts. Maybe the most disturbing part is that it seems to happen so easily, without a struggle. Much like last year, we get down by six and it might as well be sixty, because everybody in the building knows that six will become twelve, then twelve become fifteen, then fifteen will end up twenty. You know what I'd really like to see? One of these times when this happens I'd like to see the Blazers get their dander up and get in a good, old-fashioned fight. I know it's not politically correct in the NBA anymore, but to hell with it. Somebody should be getting a little sick and tired and maybe even a little bit angry about this. And some of that maybe needs to come out in a few hackles raised and some chippy behavior. I don't need a Knick-Nugget brawl, just a good nose-to-nose stare down, some harsh words, and maybe a shove or two and an ejection. A lot of old-school teams would have done exactly that if they were getting pounded by 20. It would have lit a fire under them too. Anything...ANYTHING but this passive behavior would be nice.